Category Archives: Super PACs

The Pencil Today:


“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all — the apathy of human beings.” — Helen Keller


I voted in my first presidential election 35 years ago. I pulled the lever for Jimmy Carter over Gerald R. Ford. That November, 1976, I felt heady and powerful, having helped sweep the stink of Dick Nixon out of Washington.

I looked forward to a future that would include peace, a home and plenty of food for all my fellow citizens, affordable higher education for all, unfettered access to birth control and abortions, legalized marijuana, and, of course, jet packs.

What A Cool Future!

So here we are in 2012, fighting a war that makes Vietnam look like a historical hiccup, hunger and homelessness rampant, yearly college tuitions reaching $50,000, still no legalized pot, and anti-abortionists in charge of one of the two major political parties of this holy land. Oh, and no jet packs.

Anti-abortionists gathered outside the Monroe County Courthouse yesterday afternoon to proclaim to the world how much they love, love, love every human being on this planet — as long as those human beings are not comprised of any more than several hundred cells.

“We Love You.”

The annual Rally for Life has been going on for more than a decade around Courthouse Square. Yesterday, the anti-abortionists were met with counter-protesters who shouted, waved signs, and painted slogans on their bellies.

The fun came to an early halt when the so-called Lifers decided it was too windy and misty to testify about their adoration for embryos any longer.

My fave sign at the rally? One guy held a placard proclaiming, “My sperm is not a person.”


So, Mitt Romney and his super PACs used TV advertising to knock the hell out of Newt Gingrich in November and December. Then Gingrich used TV ads to knock the hell out of Romney this past week.

Now nobody knows who the Republican candidate for president is going to be. Nor can anybody figure out why the primary race so far has been such a roller coaster ride.

Has it occurred to anybody that Republicans just might be more dedicated TV watchers than anybody else in these Great United States, Inc.? Couldn’t it be that — despite their protestations to the contrary — if they see it on TV, it’s gotta be real?

Of course, the only things Republicans don’t trust on TV are science shows and the news (except for you-know-which channel).


Joe Paterno, we learned yesterday during the sickening post-mortems following the child-sodomy-tolerating football coach’s death, used to lead his teams in prayer before every single game.

Answered Prayer

So prayer, we must conclude, is a worthy activity when one hopes to score more touchdowns than Ohio State but ain’t worth the effort when trying to decide if one should call the cops after being confronted with eyewitness evidence that a pal was busy anally raping a ten-year-old boy in the shower room.

And prayer certainly didn’t help JoePa decide to bar Jerry Sandusky from using Penn State facilities for further May-December trysts (oops — I meant February-December).


If you live in one of a dozen or so primary election states, the prayer set is going to shove gory images of fetal body parts in your face in a couple of weeks. That is, should you decide to waste several hours of your precious life by watching Super Bowl XLVI.

The Puppy Bowl: A Better Usage Of Your Time

Yep, extremist Randall Terry, who is running for president (he’s expected to come in first in the Martian primary) has bought ad time in 13 primary-state TV markets during the big game broadcast on February 5th.

Terry, you may recall, founded Operation Rescue, the terrorist organization whose Kansas branch greased the way for the 2009 assassination of Dr. George Tiller.

The Terry “campaign” is running the explicit ads in response to pro-choice blogger Sophia Brugato, whose 10fortebow Twitter page donated $10 to abortion rights groups every time Denver Broncos quarterback (and prayer fanatic) Tim Tebow scored a touchdown this past season.

So, What Is It With Football And Prayer?

The “candidate” says if Brugato can raise dough for “killing babies” then he and his fellow mobsters must “fight fire with fire.”

BTW: Does it come as any surprise that a fellow like Terry might be averse to homosexuality, so much so that he has essentially disowned his son for the sin of being gay?

You know, family values, and all that.


Parents these days are afraid to let their teenaged kids walk to the convenience store, right? Soccer moms (remember that term?) today must drive their precious spawn a block and half to the Circle K for their weekly supplies of Red Bull, condoms, and rolling papers.

That’s why this 16-year-old Laura Dekker chick’s just-completed excellent adventure is so jarring.

With the blessings of her parents, little Laura took a solo, around-the-world trip in her sailboat. She’s the youngest person ever to do such a thing, which may or may not help her advance in the business world when she becomes an adult — a landmark, I remind you, that is still some five years in the future.

Laura Dekker Got To Break Curfew 517 Nights In A Row

I’ve beaten this horse time and time again but it refuses to die. These narcissistic “accomplishments” are of zero value to anyone on this good, green (for the time being) Earth.

Celebrating these deeds and honoring their perpetrators as if they’d discovered a cure for autism is flat-out nuts.

I have a suggestion for the next pre-teen who wants to climb Mt. Everest or newlywed couple who wants to spend their honeymoon bonking high above the ground in a trans-Pacific hot air balloon ride: How about volunteering to work in a food bank or helping bring bedpans to elderly patients in your local hospital for a few weekends instead?

Now that’s heroic.


Mortgage banker Kathe Elliott-Doremus (one of the good ones — yes, such creatures do exist) FBed a fascinating nugget from the vault, Chicago’s “Dialogue, Part 1 and 2.”

Amazing, isn’t it, how nearly great that band was for a tantalizingly brief moment in time?

In fact, it was a Chicago Transit Authority (its original name until the real CTA threatened to sue) song that first introduced this aspiring teen radical to the term, “The whole world is watching.” The band’s eponymous debut album featured the twin-track “Prologue, August 29, 1968” and “Someday, August 29, 1968” which begins with raw audio from the Battle of Michigan Avenue. I stared at that convulsive event, rapt, on television when I was 12 and dreamed I could be there at Michigan and Balbo, in front of the Conrad Hilton Hotel, slugging it out with Mayor Daley’s cops.

Wishing I Was There

I was too young to make that scene. I would have had my skull dented, sure, and who knows where I would have headed after that. I could have become just another drug casualty or I might have been the next Tom Hayden.

Anyway, CTA seemed a harbinger of everything good and cool about pop music in the very early 70s. Lots of horns, a healthy dose of jazz, a political echo seemingly in each of its songs. But then — and I have no idea why — they turned to saccharine. It’s said Chicago is the second-most successful American pop band in terms of record sales after the Beach Boys. Most of those sales were of the treacly crap from their endless succession of unnamed, Roman-numeral-designated albums issued after that first release.

And then lead singer Peter Cetera struck out on a solo career, the output of which made Chicago’s pablum sound like the Dead Kennedys.

Chicago Transit Authority, Before They Turned Rancid

“Dialogue Part 1 and Two,” strangely enough, comes from Chicago V, showing that the band’s members still entertained a hint of the notion that music could be exciting.

Appropriately, Cetera’s is the voice of the Dialogue’s apathetic college student. He and co-lead singer Bobby Lamm talk about the state of the nation. “Don’t you ever worry,” asks Bobby Lamm, the socially-aware student, “when you see what’s goin’ down?”

“Well, I try to mind my business; that is no business at all,” Cetera responds.

Later, eerily presaging our times, Lamm asks, “Don’t you see starvation in the city where you live, all the needless hunger, all the needless pain?”

“I haven’t been there lately, the country is so fine. My neighbors don’t seem hungry ’cause they haven’t got the time,” blathers Cetera.

Finally, Cetera advises Lamm, “Well, if you had my outlook, your feelings would be numb. You’d always think that everything was fine. Everything was fine.”

And isn’t that the perfect crystallization of what passes for thought in the this holy land in the year 2012?

The Pencil Today:


“Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.” — Peter Ustinov


Two years ago tomorrow, the Reagan/Bush/Bush Supreme Court turned the national electoral process into a plaything for the uber-rich.

George W. Bush Introduces His Nominee For Chief Justice, John Roberts

Yup. The Citizens United decision came down January 21, 2010, with Justices Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Kennedy, and Scalia affirming that the more money you’ve got, the more precious your voice is.

Super PACs, the natural malignant outgrowth of the decision, already have proven to be huge influences in the 2012 presidential race. Republican candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have benefited mightily from TV ads placed by their respective super PACs. Of course, both Romney and Gingrich shrug and look innocent when asked about the inflammatory rhetoric of their wealthy cheerleaders.

And don’t think Barack Obama’s own super PACs won’t flood the airwaves come September and October.


Humor is tragedy plus time. Not enough time has passed, for instance, for 9/11 jokes. Nor for even JFK assassination jokes. Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, on the other hand, has inspired the well-known “Otherwise, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?” stand-alone punchline.

Some tragic events generated macabre jokes within minutes of their occurrence. In those pre-internet days of 1986, the Challenger space shuttle disaster was followed almost immediately by a rush of calls from office to office about Christa McAuliffe and colleagues, “vacationing all over the Atlantic.”

The Costa Concordia shipwreck story is hardly a week old. I haven’t heard any jokes about it yet. Still, the thing is rife with its own ghastly humor.

The Costa Concordia Before The Funny Business Started

I mean, honestly, have you read the transcripts of the ship-to-shore radio exchanges between Captain Schettino and onshore authorities as survivors still were being pulled out of the water? It reads like the script from a Marx Brothers movie, for pity’s sake.

When a port official first contacted an officer aboard the Concordia and asked if there was anything wrong, the officer replied only that there was a blackout on board. The port official seemed a tad skeptical considering he’d already been contacted by passengers on the ship who said they’d been ordered to don lifejackets.

Really, now. Wouldn’t Chico Marx, had he been the officer in question, have just as easily lied to the port official, saying the lights were merely out even as the big ship was sinking?

So the port official asked the officer if he should send help. The officer essentially said, Everything’s fine here (with the aside to the audience: As long as you ignore all those people jumping overboard).

Or Chico might have replied, You’d better or my career will be sunk.

But the real black humor came later after coastal guard Commander Di Falco got hold of Captain Schettino. He’d learned that Schettino (Groucho as Captain Spaulding) was safely esconsed in a lifeboat while passengers still were struggling to get off the ship.

Di Falco, naturally, must be played by Sig Ruman.

Sigfried Ruman As Commander Di Falco

Di Falco: Captain Spaulding!

Spaulding: How do you do, Di Falco? Not so hot, by the looks of you. (Real dialogue: “Yes. Good evening, Commander Di Falco.”)

Di Falco: Now you listen to me! Get back on that ship! (“Listen, Schettino. There are people trapped on board…. There is a pilot ladder. You will climb that ladder and go on board. You go on board and then you will tell me how many people there are. Is that clear?”)

Spaulding: I don’t like the tone of your voice, Di Falco. (“… [L]et me tell you one thing….”)

Di Falco: “Speak up!”

Spaulding: Are you out of your mind? That ship is sinking! (“In this moment, the boat is tipping….”)

Di Falco: You idiot! Get up there now and save the women and children! I’ll have your hide for this, you dunderhead! (“… [L]isten, there are people coming down the ladder of the prow. You go up that pilot ladder, get on that ship and tell me how many people are still on board…. Listen, Schettino, you saved yourself from the sea, but I am going to really do something bad to you. I am going to make you pay for this. Get on board, [expletive]!”)

Spaulding: Let’s be reasonable, Di Falco. (“Commander, please….)

Di Falco: “No…. You now get up and go on board. They are telling me that on board there are still….”

Spaudling: Say, Di Falco. There’s no need to raise your voice to me. The rescue is over — I’m safe! (“I am here with the rescue boats. I am here. I am not going anywhere. I am here.”)

Di Falco: “What are you doing, Captain?”

Spaulding: Why, I’m in charge here! Why do you think they call me captain? (“I’m here to coordinate the rescue.”)

Di Falco: You’re now the captain of a rowboat, you hoodlum! (“What are you coordinating there? Go on board! Coordinate the rescue from the ship…! It is an order! Don’t make any more excuses…! My air rescue crew is there!”)

Spaulding: (Looking around.) No wonder I heard helicopters. (“Where are your rescuers?”)

Di Falco: “My air rescue is now on the prow. Go. There are already bodies….”

Spaulding: Bodies? What bodies? (“How many bodies are there?”)

Di Falco: You should be telling me! Great Caesar’s ghost! (“You are the one who has to tell me how many there are! Christ!”)

Spaulding: This is an outrage, Di Falco. You’re asking me to get my new uniform wet. Do you realize how much the dry cleaner charges these days? Besides, it’s cold and dark. (“Do you realize it is dark here and we can’t see anything?”)

Di Falco: Would you like me to bring you a cup of hot cocoa, Captain? (“And so what? You want to go home, Schettino? It is dark and you want to go home? Get on the prow of that boat…. Now!”)

Spaulding: What are you worried about, Di Falco? The other rescuers are here. [He puts his arms around two comely female passengers.] I like it fine right here in this lifeboat. (“Commander, I want to go on board but… there are other rescuers.”)

And so on.

Later news reports have revealed that Schettino steered the ship dangerously close to the rocks that eventually sank it as a way of “saluting” a friend on shore. Oh, and that he had been seen drinking and carousing with a beautiful blonde just before the ship started taking on water.

Man. This Schettino character is a bigger clown than Captain Spaulding, Rufus T. Firefly, Otis B. Driftwood, and Dr. Hackenbush put together.


“Now there’s some sad things known to man….”

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